English ivy Algerian Ivy Creeping Fig                            Indian River County Extension Service
                                     1028 20th Pl, Suite D
                                     Vero Beach, FL 32960

FOR RELEASE: December 15, 2002
Daniel F. Culbert,  County Extension Director

                                                                         IVY FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Beyond colorful Poinsettias and aromatic Christmas trees, there are many other seasonal plants now available to brighten our homes. Since one of my favorite Christmas carols is "The Holly and the Ivy", and because many holiday planters contain ivy, it is the subject of today's column.  Information for today's column comes from UF Extension Specialist Ed Gilman and the American Ivy Society.

There are several species of plants that are called ivy. English ivy is a staple of northern landscapes, but in our area, salt,
soils and heat limit its use in the yard.  But it's look and feel of their flowing green foliage works well inside the home.  Another species of ivy that has a greater chance of success in our landscapes is Algerian Ivy, which is also an excellent houseplant.  If your Florida Yard calls for walls or beds of a green mat of foliage, consider using Creeping Fig.  However, this  last one can become invasive, and should be "let out of the pot" and into the Yard only with caution.

There are over 480 named cultivars of Hedera (Ivy) grown commercially.  Interest in ivy has  improved with many new colors - from all shades of green, green and white to yellows and golds.  Newer forms are not invasive as were many older cultivars.  Some ivy leaves are so delicately cut they resemble the print a bird's foot makes in the sand, while others are curly or fan shaped.  They are used in hanging baskets,  mixed containers, for topiary, or as groundcovers, or garden specimens, and some adult forms of ivy are even grown as shrubs.

When grown as a house plant, ivy needs four or more hours a day of direct sunlight, but can grow fairly well if given indirect light. Keep the soil evenly moist and feed with ivy houseplants with an all purpose fertilizer, half strength, once a month during periods of active growth.  Ivy prefers to be kept on the cool side, a challenge for us in Florida, so -  like your Poinsettia- consider putting it out at night to approach the ideal night temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees.

After the holiday decorations are removed from ivy dish gardens, they can be enjoyed for their own natural beauty.  As they become overcrowded,  plants may be repotted. For best results use a mixture of one part sterile potting soil, one  part peat moss or leaf mold and one part sharp sand.  To induce bushiness, pinch off stem tips.  Common pests are mites, mealybugs and leaf spot.  Be cautious about using pesticides with ivies, as some will show sensitivity to these chemicals.

English Ivy 

There are hundreds of kinds of English Ivy available, with different leaf shapes, sizes, and colors including those splashed with
white.  Many are perfectly adapted to container plant culture, and these are the ones found in holiday planters. As the plant becomes older, mature leaves develop with fewer lobes. The mature growth is difficult to root as a cutting.

In other areas, English Ivy may be  used as a ground cover or allowed to climb walls. In our local  landscapes it will not be as
useful in the landscape because its intolerance to salt spray,  alkaline soils, and wet feet -  and it has a low heat zone rating.  If you find the right spot for English Ivy, be careful not to step into the bed after it is established. Raking the leaves or cleaning debris can also damage ivy beds - if necessary to clean leaves in the bed, use a leaf blower.

Algerian Ivy

This plant  is also called Canary Island or Madeira Ivy, and is another component of holiday planters. Algerian ivy will do well as a potted house plant, or outdoors where it grows best in moist, highly organic soil in full sun to deep shade. There are also many new hybrid varieties of Algerian ivy available today, ranging from simple variegation to creamy white leaves.   The cultivar 'Variegata' has leaves with cream-colored margins flecked with green, and grey-green or blue-green mid-sections; 'Canary Cream' has green leaves with cream-colored margins. Algerian Ivy leaves may get to be six to eight inches across. 

If you release Algerian Ivy into your Florida Yard, you will find it a slightly better plant for the local landscape because of
increased heat tolerance.  But it still has limited adaptability under local conditions.  If your soil pH is low, the site is protected from the beach, and your water isn't salty, it could be a good  groundcover in a shady location.  Its bold leaves quickly provide a dark green mat of foliage. Like it's English cousin, the aerial roots will guide the plant up tree trunks, walls, or trellises, and is grown from young cuttings.

Creeping Fig

I've seen a few potted plants that are making use of a more tropical answer to the temperate ivies: Creeping Fig is well-suited  for use in topiaries or hanging baskets, as well as in the landscape. Cultivars include: 'Minima', with slender, small leaves;  'Quercifolia', tiny lobed leaves, somewhat like miniature oak leaves; and 'Variegata', leaves have creamy white markings.

Be forewarned - this is a member of the Ficus family, with its inherent issues about invasive growth. While it is sensitive to salt, it can handle our alkaline soils and get through drought if well established.  When grown in full sun, leaves often take on a yellowish cast.  If kept in bounds, creeping fig can produce a dense, rapid growth of small, dark green, overlapping leaves on slender stems.  On walls, it lends a lacy pattern in its early stages of growth. It needs no support to adhere to a wall. As twigs reach about 2-years-old, larger mature leaves develop on moderately thick, hairy stems. It also makes a low, dense ground cover only one or two inches high.  Later it will develop larger leaves and woody growth when grown as a ground cover.

A great website on ivy is the American Ivy Society <http://www.ivy.org/care.html> . If you need additional information on
these ivy plants or their care, please visit our website at <http://indian.ifas.ufl.edu>.   For those with other questions about
Florida Yards, our office holds Master Gardener Clinic during office hours at the Extension office (1028 20th Place, Suite D, Vero Beach 32960 ), Wednesday morning at the North County Library in Sebastian, and the first Saturday of the month at the Environmental Learning Center.   Our phone number is (772) 770-5030, and you can e-mail us at indian@ifas.ufl.edu <mailto:indian@ifas.ufl.edu>.

Algerian Ivy: <http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/gt/coast/algerianivy-2.htm> ;
Creeping Fig Photo:

"Ivy Care" indoor plant growing tips from the American Ivy Society
English Ivy production Guide - University of Georgia.
UF FACT SHEETS by Dr. Ed Gilman: English Ivy
<http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/HEDHELA.PDF>; Algerian Ivy
<http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/HEDCANA.PDF> ; Creeping Fig

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